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In defence of arts funding 6th May 2010 Emma Crichton-Miller and Alexander Linklater’s article (May) showed a curiously old-fashioned and ill-informed view of the role of culture in contemporary society.
ver the last 15 years, arts and culture have made a huge contribution to our economy: cultural tourism generates £20bn a year; music and theatre are multibillionpound industries. To claim the creative economy “does not exist” because it accounts for a range of different jobs is bizarre. All sectors of our economy, from manufacturing to financial services, account for a variety of different skills and roles.
he arts play a vital part in regenerating areas: major cultural centres and events attract considerable inward investment, from the Sage and the Baltic in Gateshead to Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. However, the Arts Council does not prioritise arts-led economic regeneration over the quality of the art itself. The two are inseparable: great art is the foundation of thriving cultural centres. If the art isn’t any good, the investment will have no regenerative element. Without excellence there is nothing else. We start with the art. Alan Davey Chief executive, Arts Council England bmcent1
Relative poverty 12th May 2010 Stephen Nickell (May) talks of relative poverty and poverty as if they are the same thing, requiring the same policy responses. But this is nonsense. The British tax-andbenefits system tries to ensure that we all share in the pains and gains of living in an open economy; hence the lowest income quintile pays 10 per cent of its income in tax while the highest pays 25 per cent. Yet an uneven distribution of income is inevitable in an economy carrying as much dynamism, entrepreneurship and high-level skills as ours. This has been the pattern since the 1960s. Focusing solely on the relative position of quintiles obscures the real improvements in living standards and lifestyles of, say, lower middle income families.
Doubtless, Nickell teaches his students that Britain’s Gini coefficient has risen over the years—proof that society has become more unequal? But what will happen when we scrutinise the income effects of the recession? That the economy contracted, but that relative poverty was reduced? Less income, better distribution?
oo many people in Britain live in conditions that would be caught by the term absolute poverty. Public policy should concentrate on them and prioritise their needs. James Murphy Editorial director, Future Foundation
China versus America 30th April 2010 Ian Bremmer (April) does not fully appreciate that China holds nearly $900bn of US debt, ten times what it was in 2002. That hardly looks like a “decoupling” to me. US consumption is 70 per cent of GDP, and investment is paltry. It has the world’s largest trade imbalance (mostly because of vast imports from China). China, on the other hand, only consumes about 35 per cent of its GDP and its citizens save a tremendous amount of what they earn. China is a net exporter and net lender to the US. If Americans stop buying from them for a while, they have reserves to sit on. If they dump US debt, American interest rates skyrocket and the dollar falls.
How long can the US spend more than it earns, borrowing the difference from China? If I borrow money from a supplier and fail to invest in my business, eventually my supplier becomes my owner. PJ Candre Via the Prospect website
Is it a boy or a girl? 12th May 2010 In response to Anjana Ahuja’s article on gender selection (May), I’d like to point to an evolutionary argument about how gender ratios self-balance in the long term. If some factor (be it biological, psychological or environmental) started selecting in favour of boys being born, an imbalance develops. Soon there would be fewer adult women, giving them an advantage in selecting a mate. That would cause parents to prefer baby girls, and a balanced ratio would be restored. Surely this is why the ratio is roughly 50-50 in the first place. Pavlos Papageorgiou Via the Prospect website
How housing crowds out 4th May 2010 David Griffiths (Letters, May) argues that owner-occupied housing does not “crowd out” other investment. I disagree. By its very nature, the housing market ensures that any vendors are bound to reinvest their sale proceeds into that market—unless they die or move abroad. With a new house, the purchase price is split between the builder, agents and solicitors, all of whom keep the money mostly in their own businesses. With existing houses, purchasers’ money is used by vendors to buy another home—usually at a higher price as they “trade up.” So houses are widely seen as an investment to be favoured above others, producing sharply rising prices, and making the market unable to meet the very real need for housing of a significant proportion of the population. Harvey Cole Winchester
18 · prospect · june 2010